Category: Research

Are B2B Solutions Marketers Investing Enough in Marketing Technology?

By Julie Schwartz, ITSMA,

According to ITSMA’s 2013 Marketing Technology Survey, almost two-thirds of B2B services and solutions marketers believed that they are underinvested in technology. And it’s not just marketers without technology investments that are saying so. Those who don’t have technology said that they needed it; those who did have it said that they needed more of it. Fast-forward to today and the situation hasn’t changed significantly. B2B marketers are still underinvested.

ITSMA’s most recent 2015 Annual Budget and Trends Survey revealed that marketers allocate and average of 5% of their total marketing budget to tools (defined as Marketing Technology and Automation, Marketing Analytics, Marketing Performance Management and Reporting). Just over one-quarter of the marketers in the survey planned to increase their spending on tools in 2015. Some are even decreasing their budget.

B2B marketing technology budget

With numbers like these, it is hard to imagine that the CMO is going to command a larger IT budget than the CIO anytime soon!

To learn more, complete ITSMA’s 2015 Marketing Technology Survey to better understand how you and your peers are using marketing technology to:

  • Increase marketing’s productivity by replacing manual activities with automation
  • Improve the ability to track and report marketing impact
  • Increase the volume of leads generated
  • Maximize conversions
  • Gain greater insight into buyer behavior and preferences
  • Use buyer insights to build relationships through personalization, relevant content, and conversation

Click here to access the survey, which takes approximately 12-15 minutes to complete.

In appreciation for completing the survey, you will receive an executive summary of the survey results (note: ITSMA members who complete the survey will receive the full report).

All responses will be kept strictly confidential and reported only in the aggregate. You can enter data into this survey until the deadline, March 13, 2015.

In addition, highlights from the survey will be covered in ITSMA’s upcoming lunch briefings and online briefing, Capitalizing on Marketing’s New Tools and Technologies. Briefings are free for employees at member companies and open to all others for a fee. If your company is not a member, find out more here.

Getting the Golden Nuggets in Personas: Buyer Interviews

By Julie Schwartz, ITSMA,

The resounding consensus among both respondents to our recent survey who described themselves as “very effective” in using buyer personas and B2B buyer persona experts is that the most valuable insights for persona development come from qualitative, one-to-one interviews with buyers.


So what is the best way to approach this specific kind of research project?  Here are ITSMA’s observations and recommendations:

In-depth, one-to-one interviews are essential.  The form these buyer personas interviews take can vary: it depends largely on available time and resources.  They can range from 20-minute phone calls to all-day work shadowing.  Start with what is easy to accomplish in the first iteration and take it from there.  Remember that the idea is to understand buyers in their own environment and context.

You don’t necessarily need a lot of them.  Ten qualitative interviews is a good start, and may prove sufficient.  When you start to hear – and anticipate – the same answers from one interview to the next, you probably have enough.  Keep in mind that your interview pool should include both customers who recently bought from you and buyers who went elsewhere.  You won’t get everything you need from customers alone.

They don’t even have to be your customers. Sometimes it is difficult to interview your own customers. Customer databases may be woefully out of date (not your database, of course!). You might know who is paying the bill, but not who was on the selection committee. I am always surprised to hear how possessive sales can be, preventing even their own marketing department from talking to their customers. Approvals can seem to take an eternity. If you face any of these hurdles, don’t despair. You can glean first-rate insights from interviews with buyers who match the characteristics of your target audience. You just want to be sure that they recently (last six to 12 months) evaluated a purchase for the types of services and solutions you sell. In many cases, recruiting interviewees outside your customer base will reduce the timeline for buyer persona project completion.

Interview technique is key.  Taking initial answers at face value probably won’t generate the kind of insight you’re after.  Keep asking follow-up questions to get at why they make the decisions they do.  What are their thoughts, fears, goals, and objectives throughout the buying process? Who else is involved? How do their goals and concerns differ? Nugget_sm

Create an interview environment on their terms.  People often prove surprisingly open about their experiences and emotions in the buying process when someone takes an interest in understanding their perspective.  This is easy to accomplish if you exercise your skills as an open, neutral listener.  This is the main reason why salespeople should not conduct these interviews.  Interviewees want assurance that they won’t be sold to during the call and that they aren’t undermining themselves in any future negotiations.  It’s not a question of sales lacking the skills, but one of interviewee perception.

Get outside help.  While we strongly support the idea that the skills to develop and apply personas should be core to B2B marketing departments, getting support and learning from experts dramatically smooth the learning curve.  Rather that plowing through the frustrations of trial and error, learn best practice approaches from the start. Furthermore, if you decide to go the route of recruiting interviewees outside your customer base, you will want to hire a professional recruiter.

Get the interview aspect right and you’ll strike the kind of gold that would make any forty-niner proud!

With thanks to my coaches at the Buyer Persona Institute and Tony Zambito.